Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Dying Villages of Spain


Being on the mailing list of most newspapers and a number of political organisations, Business over Tapas recently received a notice from  la Asociación de Municipios en Defensa del Desarrollo Sostenible y contra la Despoblación about the dying villages of Almería. It seems that a group has been set up to bewail the emptying of the smallest villages in the province (a phenomenon visible throughout Spain) as the young move to the cities in search of fun, a relationship, a job, some excitement and a living wage. In short: the old die off and the young move away. There’s not much point in celebrating the fact that many city-dwellers still have property in those villages, if they aren’t there to participate much beyond a bemused presence in the annual fiesta.
Thanks to modern economics, the public transport to these moribund pueblos is reduced, the banks have closed their branches and the schools are boarded up.
What can we do, ask the Almerian villagers pathetically.
Sometimes an abandoned village gets the hippy treatment – as happened in Fraguas in Guadalajara (Wiki) – where the six starry-eyed ‘repobladores’ are now facing both clink and demolition costs.
Across Spain, the population has grown (slightly) to 46,659,302, an increase of 132,263 souls in a year (thanks, more to immigration than domestic births). Of course, this growth has been unequal across the country, with some provinces – Madrid, Tenerife and the Balearics showing growth and others – such as Zamora, Ciudad Real and Ávila – contracting. An article in El País delves into this subject and notes that one of the reasons for the falling population is those who have moved abroad in search of work.
But as for the small villages – a Google search shows many stories along the lines of ‘a number of municipalities in the province lose inhabitants’ (Jaén here, Málaga here and Navarra here etc...). 
A useful study at El Confidencial (from January 2017) is titled ‘Inland Spain remains old and without inhabitants (while the capitals get fat)’. It says that ‘The most affected regions are Galicia, Asturias, Castilla y León, Castilla-La Mancha, Aragón and Extremadura, which in 2013 formed the Forum of Regions with Demographic Challenges’. The Forum asked Central Government for funding back in October 2016 (here) and appears to have quietly disappeared since then.
I wrote back to the Almerian moribund-villages-people, ‘AMCODES’: ‘Hello, if you want to increase the population of your dying villages, and create some wealth and some jobs, think of the retired people from northern Europe. They have money, they are looking for a place to live quietly and it would be an elegant solution to your problem. Perhaps even build a residence for foreigners (there are many bilingual Spanish nurses who want to return from England for example). Care will have to be taken with the Junta de Andalucía and not to get into 'illegal housing', but existing housing can be converted or repaired...’.
Naturally, they didn’t answer me – perhaps they were just looking for some funding.

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